Living and Speaking Up for Our Jewish Values

Nearly a month after the election, many of us feel we could use a break from politics. We’d rather turn our attention to the less stressful, less complicated parts of life.

We cannot, however. 

Over the past few weeks, there has been a marked increase in anti-Semitic and other hate crimes, here and elsewhere in the country. In a recent report, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented 100 anti-Semitic incidents across the country and 48 post-election hate incidents in Washington State alone. Swastikas painted on driveways in Wallingford. Posters at Seattle Central College defaced with Nazi slogans. On the University of Washington campus, a Muslim woman was struck in the face with a bottle.

How do we ensure that blatant acts of hatred don’t become the “new normal?” 

I have come to recognize that each one of us is responsible for defining our own “normal.” As such, we must continue standing for our core values, publicly and persistently – fighting injustice and hatred in all its forms, welcoming the stranger, and supporting Israel and Jewish communities everywhere.

Good work is underway to actualize this commitment. This past week, the Federation took part in meetings for representatives of minority and faith communities hosted by Governor Jay Inslee and Senator Patty Murray’s office, who were responding to concerns the communities have raised. The purpose of these meetings was to hear from communities across Washington, and together, to seek a path forward.

Governor Inslee listened respectfully and offered thoughtful ideas. He emphasized the need for all of us to meet with elected officials and share stories that humanize those at risk of being “otherized.” Another suggestion was to go out of our way to make all who live in our state feel welcome – such as the volunteers who served Thanksgiving dinner to Syrian refugees in Pioneer Square. A third was to stress our roles as leaders in our respective communities. To educate, to support one another and not to isolate ourselves. 

Whatever “new normal” we create is still unknown - one we must build. It can involve any one of the above ways to reach out - and many more. What it should not include, however, is indifference. When things get tough, it’s normal to want to retreat. But together, we can override the very natural impulse to turn inward. Instead, we can find comfort in one another, in our commitment to living out our Jewish values and in joining together to practice tikkun olam, repairing the world.

For decades, advocacy has been core to the Federation’s mission. Our strong channels of communication with elected leaders are more important than ever. These are uncertain times. But what is not uncertain is the Federation’s commitment to stand with the community. In the days, months and years ahead, you can count on our voice and leadership to ensure Jewish values are heard.